txt Performed by Brian Feldman
Kerouac House, Orlando FL
In a 1920’s College Park bungalow, people quietly chatted and texted each other. Some IT guys attempted to get a wireless network working. Various Feldmen slunk around, preparing to be arty. What would have Jack Kerouac thought? Here we were, a room full of his grandchildren typing away just as he did on that Benzedrine fired week of creating “Dharma Bums.” Perhaps he would have chatted a bit, passed out some black beauties, and driven us all to Tijuana for burritos and tequila. Or not. His picture and spirit hung over the room, but the crowd was calm, we behaved, and aspiring to some sort of middle class stability. Rather than filling a roll of paper towel with the screaming of synapses, we filled up some morally equivalent server space in Cupertino with the random chatter of our lives, the equivalent of intellectual white noise.
Mr. Feldman, master of the Time Constrained Performance Art event, read in real time random texts and Twitters from the audience. This is a continuation of the trend toward connectivity addiction – we are in a theater that requires typing on our electronic leashes to create a story arc from our hive mind. No hopeless curtain speech about silencing and turning them off – here we are required to sign up, sign on, and tune in. It’s the art of the modern medium – instant gratification in knowing our friends are finally petting the cat or filing their nails. How did we ever settle the continent without this?
The show opens, and Tweets immediate overwhelmed The Feldman Bandwidth. A pause, he recovers, and themes appear. A thread on kittens, a thread on Star Wars, and a thread on constipation swell up until The Feldman emits a plaintive “stop! Stop! STOP!” The system obeyed – some obscure Twitter failsafe limits kicked in. A pause. I do the mental math: 140 characters time 8 bits per letter – a kiloBIT. Thirty two bits the byte, 32 bytes a second and The Feldman is overwhelmed. He can’t keep up. And you complain if you’re on dial up at 56,000 bytes per second. We’ve made a genie, and it’s out of the bottle. It attacks! He struggles to stay on his feet …”My vagina is itchy from looking at your beard”…Think how we would drown if…”meow meow meow meow ShamWOW!”… somehow we had to deal with the stream of raw data that …”And the colored girls do sing doo, dit doo, dit dit doo doo”… we create incidentally every time we log in to our email account… “I am Queen of the Jews!”…were to assault us. Then – stark silence. The Feldman loses all data. He’s stopped. Cold. The silence was creepy, with nervous advice from the tech savvy reflecting the tHe thE tHE THe THE loss of our our our connec-nec-nec-iv-iv-iv-itty. It hurts.
It’s a complex, delicately balanced system that keeps us alive in the 21st century. The smallest disruption can bring a city to darkness and a society to the brink of anarchy, then over the brink. We live no more than 36 hours from the end of the world, 36 hours from the crossing the event horizon into hell. I don’t know what The Feldman set out to do, but the result is a metaphor for both the information infused lives we live, and how easily everything can be stripped away from us. No email? Can’t post to this site your reading now? My life is a shamble. txt held up a mirror, and in it we see the promise of instant total communications, and how it will kill us all, unexpectedly.
And then the connection returned, and disaster was averted. For today.
For more information on txt and all the other Feldman projects, please visit these websites: